I admit it — I have been to lots of ALL YOU CAN EAT buffets. AND, I admit that on many occasions, I have made a second visit to the serving table for “just a little more.” Is it a coincidence that the rise in the popularity of such “all you can eat dining experiences” has been matched by the rise of obesity rates in America? 36% of the American population is now considered dangerously obese. We are at such a point that government is trying to legislate how much we eat/drink: New York City wants to prevent any sugary drink larger than 16 ounces.
Just think about it: we can all eat MORE than we need to eat. There is something almost immoral about actually eating all one CAN eat. Am I the only one who thinks those 4th of July hot dog eating contests are rather gross?
When helping ourselves at the home dinner table [or serving ourselves from the stove]: take what you can eat & eat what you take. And, we have all said, “I guess my eyes were bigger than my stomach”, as we left food on our plates.
The scripture this weekend teaches us about the POWER of God to provide for all our needs — including the basic need for food. “Jesus teaches by example. The proper role and responsibility of every disciple of Jesus is to feed the hungers of all God’s people. In today’s Gospel [John 6:1-15], it is the physical hunger of a very large crowd that merits Jesus’ full attention and compassion.” (Celebration, July 26, 2009) The action of Jesus recalls the action of the prophet Elisha in today’s first reading. (2 Kings 4:42-44) In the four Gospels, Jesus feeds the physical hungers of people no less than six times.
“Jesus’ compassion made him sensitive toward all of the other hungers he encountered: He fed those hungry for the truth with his teaching; his compassion fed the sorrowing; his mercy fed the marginalized; his caring fed the sick, the dying, and the lonely. His love fed the hunger of every sinner yearning to be loved, to belong, to be forgiven, to be redeemed.” (Celebration, supra)
As we get caught up in our “Church world” and the “things of Church” — it is essential that we keep in mind that those who come into our churches, those who sit in the pews — come with so many hungers —to preach the WORD OF GOD without an awareness of the REAL HUNGERS these folks have, is like “sowing the seed on unprepared ground.” To preach HOPE WITHOUT OFFERING HOPE is a noisy gong, an empty bell.”
Those who question the use of taxpayer money in providing breakfast in our public schools need to visit a school and watch a child — who may not have had a ‘decent’ meal since lunch at school the day before — eat breakfast. How can a teacher teach a child with an “empty, growling” stomach? By the end of 2012, it is estimated that 15.6% of the American population will live in poverty.
Question: how much does someone have to earn per hour to escape poverty? ANSWER: if someone works 40 hours per week, they must earn $10 an hour to earn enough to rise above the poverty level!
Last week we heard that Jesus was moved with pity because the people were like sheep without a shepherd. Today, he offers a model for responding to people in need: First, have the people recline – anyone who is overwhelmed — “stressed out” — needs to catch a breath — this is a key reason we worship every-week — to re-group ourselves, to take the weight off our shoulders/minds. When someone comes to us in need, we are called to help them to breathe deeply and to know that ALL IS MANAGEABLE. Like the disciples, we may not know what we are going to do, but if our minds and hearts are going in 10 different directions, we will never see that God has a plan.
THAT IS STEP # 2: God does have a plan. Today’s Gospel reminds us, “he himself knew what he was going to do.”
It was almost 30 years ago that the oil industry in our area went bust. Our local ministerial association wondered what we might do to help folks suffering. From these wonderings came “Abraham’s Tent” — a joint effort to provide a hot lunch everyday. Initially, it was thought this would be a temporary program — maybe for 2-3 years. Nearly 30 years later, it is still serving almost 200 free-hot-lunches everyday — funded with local resources and volunteer labor. GOD ALREADY KNEW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.
In this case, manna did not drop from heaven — God’s plan was to use what was there to feed the folks who were hungry and tired. Was the miracle that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes? Was the miracle that those who had brought food shared with those who did not? IT DOES NOT MATTER: the fact is that the hungry were fed.
Step Three — Get started. Remember: Winning is beginning. Jesus “took the loaves and gave thanks …” his plan was now in motion. Those who LEAD IN MINISTRY must direct the first steps … we are called to anticipate the needs of people and be ready to respond even in crisis: ** what will cuts to health care funding mean in our local communities? *** what do we do for farm families in times of drought? *** are we ready for hurricane/tornado season? *** what happens when a foreign national without papers comes to us in need of direction?? *** are we ready to assist families who cannot afford back to school supplies?
The biggest mistake ever made was doing nothing because we could not do everything. (Edmund Burke)
Finally, pick up the leftovers: God would not create a world where there is not enough food for the people on the earth. Our food problems are not a production problem ….the problem is a distribution problem. There is food for all if we all share our “leftovers” with others ….if we all do something to feed others.
As we approach the communion table this weekend …let us be mindful that Jesus feeds us spiritually with his body and blood. In doing so, he reminds us that he wants to meet ALL OUR HUNGERS. As we reflect on the Gospel, let us remember that Jesus involved his disciples in feeding the 5,000 who traveled with them. Jesus has the POWER AND THE AUTHORITY ….we have the resources.
Let us leave worship with a resolve to appreciate the food we have and be mindful of those who are lacking what we have. [The old expression: some of us eat to live, others live to eat.] Let us make sure that we share our personal resources and our Church resources with area feeding programs. Let us resolve to buy something extra at the supermarket and to give it to a food pantry or area soup kitchen. What are we going to do? Something.